Mississippi River Flooding: Two Towns, Divided By A River, With Drastically Different Fates
Chris Kirkham

First Posted: 05/18/11 07:58 AM ET Updated: 05/18/11 09:27 AM ET

VIDALIA, LA. –- Traffic has been swift for weeks along the majestic steel bridge that connects this low-lying river town to its sister city across the Mississippi River.

Moving vans filled with furniture, tractors and combines from cotton and corn fields, and truckloads of office supplies all head toward Natchez, Miss., the hilltop town less than a mile across the river that is quickly becoming an expatriate community for hundreds seeking higher ground.

As floodwaters and tensions rise in this scenic stretch of the Mississippi Valley, an informal exodus takes place in Vidalia, as neighborhoods empty and businesses relocate to higher ground on the opposite side of the river.

Call it a hardened sensibility to the powerful forces at play. Those who have lived along the river for generations are distinctly in tune with the rhythms of nature. And this year, nature said Vidalia should flee.

“She’s mean right now; she’s just treacherously mean,” said lifelong Vidalia resident Vicki Torrey, reflecting on the river. “And with our officials, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that Mother Nature is just gonna outwit them.”

Like many in Vidalia, Torrey essentially camps out in her home, after moving nearly every stick of furniture across the river to storage on higher ground. She and her husband still have their bed, refrigerator and two uncomfortable chairs.

Torrey’s dogs know something is awry, being without their usual beds for weeks now.

The migration across the Mississippi has happened during past floods, but never to the same extent as this year. Storage spaces in a 50-mile radius of Natchez are filled to the brim.

Short-term leases on apartments and houses on high ground have been popular, and the supply is dwindling.

“There’s a lot of ‘just in case’ preparation going on,” said Natchez real estate broker Glenn Green. “The supply has pretty much been used up. People are just asking favors of friends at this point.”

The differences in landscape between Natchez and Vidalia are the product of a geological anomaly along this stretch of the river that has played out over thousands of years.
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